There comes a point during the summer when you just know you’re all done and ready for fall.
If you have kids, this time may come sooner rather than later. My “all done” switch officially turned on about 10 days ago.
First of all, let me just say that we had a good summer all in all. Early on, the boys attended a cool robotics camp at Central Texas College. My younger son Andrew also participated in Vacation Bible School at Fort Hood.
We went on a marvelous 10-day trip to Montana where we visited Yellowstone National Park twice, spending one of those days hiking and the other exploring the Old Faithful area. We also spent the Fourth of July with a dear college friend of mine in Missoula, where my sister and her fiancé just happened to be at the same time.
Other Montana highlights included hanging out in Bozeman and Livingston, re-visiting Butte, and wandering through the battlefield at Little Big Horn National Park near Billings.
Late in July, my in-laws arrived and we enjoyed some quality family time replete with delicious meals and plenty of bantering and hub-bub.
Rob’s change-of-command at the end of the month was another highlight, leaving us with that wistful combination of joy, sadness and satisfaction. Rob and I squeezed in an overnight get-away to Austin and soon after, he deployed to Afghanistan, finally triggering the 365-day clock to start ticking.
Since then, it has been an adjustment process for us all. The boys are logging too many hours on their video games and I’ve been remiss in keeping track of it the way I normally do. A good chunk of my brain seems perpetually occupied with missing and worrying about my husband, (which explains why the car behind me had to beep loudly yesterday before I realized the traffic light had turned green).
Getting dinner on the table is suddenly a Herculean challenge and when we are finally gathered around the table, it seems the kids are in such a hurry to inhale their food and leave that it’s barely even worth the effort. Though I know how important it is to go through the motions.
My husband and I are starting to figure out how to communicate using FaceTime and he now has an address. In fact, I mailed him his first box this week. He is facing his own challenges, to include dealing with feelings of loneliness and isolation, learning a new job, and getting used to the bleak landscape of deployment all over again.
It is often said that the hardest parts of a deployment are the first month and the last. You’d think I’d remember this from our previous times of separation but strangely, I don’t.
When he deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, we only had Ryan who was a toddler back then. We were living in Germany and the war was just beginning. It was scary not knowing what our soldiers could expect in Iraq or how long they’d be gone.
I know it was a challenging year for Rob and his battalion (the 709th Military Police Battalion), as well as for the families but I don’t recall the specifics anymore. Just snippets of random impressions, like the way our infrequent phone calls were often cut short or drowned out by static, and how Ryan loved “Bob the Builder.”
His second deployment in 2009 — to Afghanistan — also took place while we were in Germany. Ryan was 7 and his little brother 3. And this time Rob left as the commander of the 709th. There was a sense of camaraderie and purpose (that is missing for him now) and there were family readiness group meetings for me and the support of the other spouses and families.
It was still hard — don’t get me wrong. I do recall trying not to cry in front of the boys on Christmas Day as they opened their gifts, and I distinctly remember the long, gray winter days that seemed endless at times.
This is the last week of summer vacation and though my sons are adamant about not wanting school to start, I suspect they’re secretly looking forward to the diversion. Ryan will start seventh grade where he is signed up for mostly AP courses. He will turn out for athletics, starting with football this fall and his days will be much longer and fuller than they have been. Andrew will begin second grade and will play soccer. They’ll both go to religious education classes on Wednesday evenings.
There will be early mornings, lots of carpooling, chauffeuring and schedules to figure out and I fully expect we’ll be exhausted by the time each Friday rolls around. But I think the structure school provides will help make time go by faster and will give us all a sense of purpose. (Check back with me on this in a couple of months!) Thanks, 2014, for a great summer — now let’s hear it for fall!
Gail Dillon, an Army spouse, journalist and Air Force veteran, lives at Fort Hood with her husband, two sons and a Goldendoodle.